20 April 2008

A Friend for Kim Qui

Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), Critically Endangered

Back in December, I wrote about the Yangtze Giant Soft-shelled Turtle. Then, there were only two known Rafetus swinhoei known to exist, both in captivity, in separate zoos in China. It turns out that they aren't, in fact, the last two in existence. There are at least two others. One, highly revered by the Vietnamese and figuring prominently in legends as Kim Qui, the Golden Turtle God, lives in Hoan Kiem Lake, in Hanoi.

The discovery of the fourth, and only other known surviving turtle of this species, was recently announced by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Scientists backed by the zoo spent three years searching in Vietnam, up and down the Red River. They finally found success at a lake just west of Hanoi, where locals said they occasionally spotted the rare turtle. As there are so few of these rare turtles left, every individual offers a greater hope for recovery. With only four known, however, prospects of long-term survival aren't very positive.

Rafetus swinhoei can live to be up to 100 years old, and perhaps it's not too late. There is a plan in the works to breed the male and female turtles from the Chinese zoos. So far though, no one knows for sure whether that attempt will be successful. Keep your fingers crossed.

You can join the Turtle Survival Alliance if you want to make a difference. You could also make a donation.

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